!! ... !!
It's appropriate that I'm writing this entry on April 1st because it means you'll all give me a few minutes to explain the details of that statement before you go jumping to conclusions about what it means. Because as with everything in my life, things are way more complicated than one sentence can summarize. :) But I do assure you that this is no april fool's joke.
Getting married. meggyn and I are technically/legally getting married but, for now, that is the extent of it. There won't be a ceremony. There won't be vows. There won't be social/community/spiritual significance attached to our signing of the marriage license. What there will be is spousal "secondary applicant" status for meggyn on my Employer Sponsored Temporary Work Visa which will mean that she can be here for more than three months and can study and work legally as she chooses. It'll also make it easier to put her on my health insurance and to pay taxes jointly (as we'll essentially be a single income family for a while).
Now, none of that disclaiming is to say there isn't SIGNIFICANT social/community/spiritual significance to our decision to move to Australia together. We're definitely forming a strong commitment and taking our relationship to a new level. We're forming a very real partnership in life that transcends what we have had in the past. We're going to share love and housing and income and experiences. We're going to support each other in good times and bad. We have pre-arranged understanding of how we'll work out financial dependency issues if our relationship splits for some reason. This is very much like the thing that other people call marriage. AND we also, for tactical reasons, happen to be getting a marriage certificate from the state of Illinois.
But the thing is, we both feel like there's another relationship level that comes later that we would like to get to where we'll have a big celebration affirming our relationship in the presence of friends and family. Where we'll throw the party of a lifetime. Where we'll commit to a a life together. And this is not the time for that. We haven't even had a chance to live together yet! We don't want to have a slap-dash wedding thrown together this summer before we move to Australia. We want to do it right. And we want to spend more time talking together to figure out what we'd even really want. And we want to be sure it's going to stick. Do we want to be legally married in the long run? How do we feel about the political and historical issues surrounding straight marriage privilege or marriage as property exchange? How do we want to re-invent re-purpose re-imagine marriage or commitment ceremony to fit our own values and politics? How would a lifelong marriage affect our ongoing commitment to polyamory (in terms of the perception of others and of the options we may eliminate in terms of making a similar co-equal commitment to other theoretical serious partners we may or may not ever find added to our lives)? Do we want a commitment ceremony instead of a marriage? Regardless of what we call it and what legal status it has, how do we want to frame it in personal, community, and spiritual terms?
Right now, there's really serious relationship growth and love, there's a commitment to forming a household unit, and there's a marriage certificate for practical legal/economic/immigration purposes and those three things are not the same. So please, don't congratulate us on getting married or being engaged...save that special manna for when we do the real thing. Instead, congratulate us on following our dreams, changing our lives, finding and expanding our love, and seeking a great adventure.
So let's see what happens in three years? Maybe we'll have a big celebration that involves getting a divorce and then having a commitment ceremony? Maybe we'll stick with this legal marriage thing but have a ceremony to make it real? Maybe we'll do something neither of us could predict right now? But we promise that when we get to that place in our relationship we will give everyone ample warning and we'll throw a HUGE and fantastic party. Can you imagine trying to pull together such a party with less than a month's warning?
Moving to Melbourne - So here's the plan. I'll be home on April 7th. I'll spend April 12th and 13th in Orlando Florida performing the marriage of my sister's childhood best friend. I'll spend April 14th in the Chicago suburbs DJing nomadwolf's wedding. I'll then be splitting most of my time traveling between Ontonagon, Urbana, Chicago, and other places where friends live. I won't be expected to work more than an average of 10 hours per week while I am home because I want to focus on spending as much quality time as humanly possible with all my friends and family and also I'll need to spend a lot of time moving my shit out of Urbana and into storage in Chicagoland.
My dad retires in early May and my folks will be selling their house in Island Lake (the end of a 27 year era) and moving permanently to Ontonagon in May! So I'll be helping with that too. I hope some of you can come visit the place up there, it's so fantastic and May will be a perfect time of year to go exploring the porkies. The waterfalls should be in full force with snowmelt and spring rains.
I'm heading back to Melbourne by myself in early June. meggyn will be quitting her job by June 1st. I'll be hiring meggyn to take care of wrapping up my business in the US. She'll use her awesome experience with wrangling contractors and carpenters and organizing major project logistics to help get the First Urbana House of Slack into salable condition and coordinate moving anything out of there that I don't get moved out in April and May. She'll have power of attorney to close the sale while I am away. She'll also come visit me for a couple of weeks in July.
I'll be back in the US again in mid-August. I'll be home in time for my Mom's birthday, then porkiesfestival, and then Burning Man, and then a final push to move myself and meggyn out of our respective Chicago apartments. Her lease ends on October 1 and mine on November 1. We won't be renewing.
In early October, meggyn and I will be moving to Melbourne together. My work will provide housing for 6 weeks while we look for a place of our own. We hope to live within a 30 minute bike ride from my work which means somewhere in the area of Carleton, Fitzroy, Collingwood, Northcote, Brunswick, or North Fitzroy. Work is also paying to furnish our new place so we won't have to bring anything but the bare essentials from home. This means we'll have great incentive to really strip down our worldly possessions and free ourselves of the cruft of three decades of packrattery. Whatever we can't part with we'll put in storage (also paid for by my work) in Chicago. Our plan is to have sufficient stuff in storage (and savings) that if either the job or the relationship goes to poorly then one or both of us can open up the locker, get an apartment, and immediately re-establish life in Chicago.
The work schedule for the first year is that we'll be in Melbourne for 3 months and then back in the US for 1 month in a repeating cycle. We'll renegotiate the schedule after a year of experience with it. So we'll be back in the US in April (for no planned purpose, just hanging out with friends and family as much as possible), mid-August-mid-September (for porkiesfestival and burningman), and mid-December-mid-January (for xmas and new years). The years after that are likely to be much the same.
We'll be couch surfing with family and friends for the months that we're in the US.
While we're in Melbourne, I'll be bringing home the bacon to help both of us get into a solid financial situation with reduced debt and actual savings and meggyn will be studying and networking in the field of Green Building Design. She's an interior architect and is really interested in sustainable building as one piece of the puzzle in saving the world from the coming global doom. Melbourne happens to be one of the premier cities in the world to learn about this stuff because of the confluence of a government that is committed to total sustainability and a zero-emissions future and huge local hippie population that has been pioneering this stuff for decades here.
Melbourne, in the shadow of the southern ozone hole (SPF 30 sunblock is a necessity on clear days), recipient of refuges from islands soon to be rendered uninhabitable by rising sea levels, and facing the worst nationwide drought in its history (accelerated by naive ground water management and over-zealous logging in the water catchments, worst case estimates saying that the Melbourne itself will be out of potable water within 3 years at current usage and replenishment rates)....is a metropolis of people who are keenly in touch with the looming environmental crisis. There is so much work to be done in networking the incredible work being done by the City of Chicago with the incredible work being done in Melbourne in this area and I'm so excited to be able to help meggyn be part of that change. I've temporarily lost the energy to be a daily activist so I'm quite excited to support the incredible activism that I know she'll accomplish!
The great thing about the 1 month stints in the US is that for all of them I'll only be expected to work 10 hours per week which means that I'll be able to really spend the kind of quality time with family and friends that I want to without any of the guilt about underperforming at work that I have had for the past couple of years. I feel like I'll actually have more and better quality time with all of you than I did while I was living in Chicago.
For the next 3 years - My job has offered me a three year contract so that is our current plan for living in Melbourne. We currently plan to return to Chicago at the end of that period. We very much think of this as a transitional time in our lives. I'll be working on creating the financial stability that I have lacked for the past decade ad she'll be working on re-training for her chosen new career. The next stage of our lives will, hopefully, involve building her business and transitioning me into a new career that I still need to discover (maybe I'll finally go for the teaching thing, or the music business thing, or maybe I'll help with meggyn's business, or maybe I'll continue with computer work but in a new kind of environment). I still dream of and hope to create a cooperatively owned and managed community space for working and living with friends/chosen-family in Chicago. But that is three year's off. Who knows what will happen between now and then? There's no sense making firm plans until we see how this Melbourne thing really pans out. The future is more wide open than ever before and it is scary and exhilarating and it makes me smile from ear to ear just typing about it!
Lead programmer - One of my major frustrations with my current job has been having to conform to a programming environment architected by the current lead programmer. The current environment is incredibly sloppy and ill-conceived and just makes me want to cry everytime I have to work with it. Well, the old lead programmer has been promoted to management. He is no longer allowed to write code. They were going to hire someone local to replace him. Their plan was to get the headhunters to interview me to capture a picture of what my skills are so they could hire an Aussie clone of me. But since I've gotten here my productivity has been so great and my experience with the company is so extensive that they really actually just wanted to hire me. So they are paying for visa application, flights to and from Melbourne for both of us, relocation expenses, and giving me a small raise to compensate for some Australian taxes that I'll have to pay. Plus I'll benefit from all their infrastructure and so won't have to maintain my own infrastructure in terms of high quality DSL and development server. And I'm promised performance reviews every 3-6 months which will lead to incremental raises at every step of the way.
I'll be implementing the total reengineering of our entire web infrastructure. We've got 2 major re-writes of our website in the pipe and they'll both be my responsibility. By the time the second one is done we'll be in a good position for me to have some underlings to take over the more mundane parts of my job.
I really love the work environment here. These changes in position and in work environment address every issue I've had not only with working this job from home but with every kind of work environment I've had since I graduated from college. This is absolutely the best job I've had since the USGS. A warm and friendly workplace, a team dynamic, management that takes care of its workforce, opportunity for original creative work, reward and recognition for work well done, and convenient location in a thriving culturally rich metropolis.
my company - I don't know if I've said this to my general friends list or not. It's really time I just completely out myself about this. I work for g-media, the company that produces abbywinters.com. It is one of the most successful amateur nude girls photo+video sites on the net. We now have around 50 employees in two offices (Sydney and Melbourne). And, our production manager worked on Mad Max! I am not even slightly embarrased or politically conflicted about doing this work. I had some very minor lingering doubts until I came here and saw it all in action. I've met models, I've met staff, I've seen the operation in operation and it is the least skeezy operation you could possibly imagine. The models are well compensated and have total autonomy regarding the level of posing they do for the site. Women are involved in all stages of the recruiting, interviewing, and shooting. The portrayal of nudity and sexuality on the site is completely focused on happiness, fun, and reality. Models are presented with fully formed personalities, not just as a collection of body parts. The site includes interviews and handwritten notes from the models and models are often shot in their homes, in their own clothes, among their own posters and decorations, and sometimes doing some activity that they enjoy (bicycling, yoga, tennis, hiking, sunbathing, reading scifi books, playing basketball, playing music or singing, etc). The site features a range of body types and emphasizes a lack of makeup and no cosmetic modifications (e.g. no boob jobs). Bodies in their natural state doing things that bodies like to do. When the site has girl-girl sex the girls are not directed. They may discuss what they will do beforehand with each other and then they just go for it with an emphasis on communication and consent. Sometimes (often) it is highly passionate, and sometimes it falls a bit flat when the chemistry isn't right...just like real life. Many models remain involved in the site community by posting to the message boards. Everything the models do to benefit the site (posting to the boards, narrating a video newsletter, etc) is compensated. Many of the company's happy workers are former models.
I've got all kinds of issues with every kind of work that is performed in the capitalist system. There is an inherent degree of inequality, oppression and subjugation towards every worker on behalf of every owner of capital. Short of working towards a revolution to overthrow the system the best we can seek is a safe and respectful work environment, a fair rate of pay, some autonomy over one's own performance of duties, the freedom to quit, etc. All employees of this company, including models, are afforded far more of that than the vast majority of jobs available to women or men in our society.
If you have questions about the work I do or would like to discuss any aspect of the morality or practice of adult websites I would love to have that conversation with you, especially if we can do it in person. I LOVE to explore the many issues surrounding this work from feminist, anti-capitalist, sex worker rights, liberal, harm reduction, sex positive education, kinky/pervy entertaiment, and other perspectives. There's a major part of me that would like to go to grad school for anthropology of sexuality and sex work.
my relationship - I really haven't spent a lot of time writing about my relationship with meggyn and where it has come from and where it is and where it is going. It's such a fantastic part of my life but, like life in Melbourne, I've been so busy living it and enjoying it and understanding it, that I haven't spent much time squeeing about it.
This is the most powerful and strong relationship that I've ever been in (and I've been in several very strong and powerful relationships!). This is the third time in my life where I've felt this incredibly deep transcendent level of compatibility where I can envision being together forever. The previous two cases where I've felt this way it was either unrequited and/or just bad timing/circumstances and no real actual committed dating relationship even formed (though terrific transcendent wonderful presumably lifelong friendships were formed in both cases). My other long term committed relationships have all been with people who I loved deeply and who I strove to find that place of stable compatibility with but for one reason or another there was some disconnect or other that led to the end of the relationship. In every case, in retrospect, I can see that the writing was on the wall from the beginning. In this case, I don't see or feel it. We've been through a bunch of REALLY hard things together and we've both worked through a lot of confusion about where we stand and what we're doing and what we want but we've always eventually worked through it together and we always come out of it with a greater richer understanding of how we each tick and how to communicate and understand and empathize better. Our biggest hurdle has been for both of us to understand that we are both ready, willing, and able to communicate about anything (early on we had some conflicts over each other's communication rhythm/pace/style and levels of trust and issues of healing our own personal ability to be in a loving committed relationship) and we've done a good job of getting over it. Sometimes we have hiccups....but then we talk them out and become more powerful than before. :)
This relationship is about communication like no other I've ever had. I've spent my whole life (as do most other people) improving communication. Improving my ability to retain a sense of self while also being involved in a relationship. Improving my ability to not NEED a relationship. And that is the other key to our relationship. Neither of us needs the other. We found each other at a time right around when we both had begun to really solidify that understanding of self autonomy in which relationships with others enrich us but in which our lives could be quite rich without any particular relationship.
People looking at us might think we're fairly monogamous (at least lately) because we spend so much of our time holed up quietly together just rejuvenating. Our relationship has somewhat reduced our normally outgoing social behaviors. But it happens to have corresponded to a time in life where we both simply need a break. A good long break from doing things out of habit and expectation. Of taking a step back to look forward, like the hedgehog moving backwards into a crevice to look out safely on a new day. But another thing that has been central to our relationship has been a full-fledged embrace of polyamory. Polyamory for us is a completely open-minded style of communicating about relationships. It is a recognition that regardless of who we are or aren't having sex with we both have LOTS of relationships that have lots of different levels. Whether we're having sex with others or not we may still get jealous of or confused about who we choose to spend time with, how we spend time with them, who we choose to give emotional energy to, and how that affects our own relationship. And it is VITAL to talk openly about that stuff instead of letting that stew. And once you've got that it gets SO EASY to go further and not worry about the possibility that just as one of us might have friends that we care about and love as much as anyone else (or if not "as much as" then "in a unique way special to that relationship") and whom we want personal time and emotional energy with them....we might also have intimate contact with others on a similar basis. Our hardest jealousy talk wasn't about other lovers but about her best friend, and my unexpected reactions to their time together, by the end of the talk about it we'd both learned a TON about each other and about ourselves and I'd come to a complete turn around in my feelings on the matter (which had always been intellectually supportive but were surprisingly emotionally ambiguous). We both LOVE talking about flirting with others and the process of it and our relative success or lack thereof in doing so. We both LOVE to be flirted with and to flirt and to have the flirting actually go somewhere. We love human touch in all its many platonic and romantic forms. We love to kiss. We love to make out. We love to make eye contact. We love to have good conversations. And we're good at sussing out our ever changing (from day to day!) boundaries with ourselves and each other and others. We're also both pretty shy about going out and exploring it all and often don't have the energy to explore it as much as we'd like. Which has given us plenty of time to ebb and flow between outgoing experimentation and coming together to process those experiences. We're not rushing into anything, we're taking life as it comes at a pace that is sustainable given our available emotional and physical energy and a lot of the time lately that means just chilling out together watching TV. We both LOVE the thought that our future lives could, with careful intention and strong communication, eventually be filled with a variety of solid, fun, rewarding, relationships some of which have varying levels of intimacy involved. We LOVE the reality that for each of us intimacy can range from makey-outy play to expression of total love. We LOVE that our faith in each other is so solid that we can explore these things without a lot of fear...and typically if we find ourselves on less solid footing we retreat together and work it out before going any further outside of our relationship. This approach to love and sex and intimacy and relationships and communication is really new for both of us and we're loving being able to explore it together. It was key that from day one of our relationship we were both separately quite clear that this was where we were and where we wanted to go.
So look, just because we're getting married and moving to Melbourne, just because we spend so much time being the prototypical domestic lovebirds...please don't stop flirting with us (or ya know...if you haven't been but want to...start). We love it and if we don't we'll let you know gently. Maybe you'll get somewhere or maybe you won't but it'll be fun to talk about. Or ya know...just be our good friends. It's all the same. The key of the next three years is that we want our relationships with people to be all they can be. Let's not take our friendship for granted. Let's set aside quality time to hang out.